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The US launches its own Eurovision Song Contest

Silke Wünsch
March 21, 2022

The Eurovision Song Contest has a growing fan base in the USA. Now the US is also holding its own version of the popular competition: the American Song Contest.

Snoop Dogg und Kelly Clarkson moderieren «American Song Contest»
Image: picture alliance/dpa/Invision/AP/dpa

There are 56 acts — one for each of the 50 US states, along with its five populated territories and Washington, D.C — competing for the title of "Best Original Song," starting on March 21.

The winner will be decided in five qualifying rounds, two semifinals and one final show.

The panel of judges includes hip hop legend Snoop Dogg and singer Kelly Clarkson, and they promise a great show:

The final is slated for May 9, one day before the first Eurovision semi-final in Turin.

An important Eurovision figure, Christer Björkman, who long led the Swedish delegation and produced the Swedish preliminaries, is one of the producers of the American version.

The US and Eurovision

Since 1973, the Eurovision Song Contest(ESC) has spread its wings to Israel and Australia, which joined the show in 2015.

The US stayed out, but during a visit in 2016, former President Barack Obama mentioned the competition in the same breath as the big European football clubs.

Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake performing in Stockholm in 2016Image: Martin Meissner/AP Photo/picture alliance

Still, the ESC has featured American stars in the past.

Justin Timberlake made an appearance at the final in Stockholm in 2016, the year the contest was broadcast live in the US for the first time.

Madonna also performed during half-time at the 2019 final in Tel Aviv, an act sponsored by Canadian-Israeli millionaire Sylvan Adams — a fan of the pop icon.

One year later, a Netflix movie contributed to the growing popularity of the contest in the United States: "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga," written by and starring actor Will Ferrell, centers on an Icelandic duo making their entry into the ESC circus.

While the story is entirely fictitious, the parody is inspired from the real competition, and actual performers from past events also appear in the film. 

One song from the film, "My Home Town," was nominated at the Oscars in 2020.

Rachel McAdams
Rachel McAdams lip-syncs the song from 'The Story of Fire'Image: Netflix/Gary Sanchez Productions/ Truenorth Productions/picture alliance

Help from overseas

Europe's participating countries have often obtained help from the American continent.

In 1997, the United Kingdom's entry, Katrina and the Waves, won the competition; lead singer Katrina Leskanich was born in Kansas.

In 2009, the California-born Oscar Loya participated in the ESC on Germany's behalf, but only made it to the 20th position.

In 2021, US rapper Flo Rida participated together with the singer Senhit on behalf of San Marino.

In 1988, Switzerland won the "Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson," as it was then called, with Canadian singer Celine Dion representing the country. She demonstrated that a ESC win can lead to a legendary career.

Michael Bolton
Michael Bolton will represent ConnecticutImage: Bob Levey/Getty Images for UNICEF

Celebrity participants

Instead of trying to negotiate a spot in the Eurovision Song Contest, US broadcaster NBC decided to apply to the European Broadcasting Union — the organizers of the ESC — for an authorization to organize an American version of the contest.

The 56 participants include experienced musicians and, just like in the original contest, a wide variety of genres is guaranteed.

Singer-songwriter Jewel is performing for Alaska, while the multiple Grammy-winner Michael Bolton is singing for Connecticut.

Maryland will be represented by R&B performer Sisqo, the Chrystal Method will sing for Nevada, and Macy Gray will deploy her husky voice for Ohio.

The contest will also be broadcast a few days later in some European countries, including Germany, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Icelandic viewers will be able to enjoy the competition live.